Saturday, March 29, 2008

Families Don't Tell

You know, the strange thing about growing up in middle America in the 70s (or any decade, I imagine) is that families kept up this "air" about them.

Do you hear what they say on the rare occasion they catch a serial killer - like Jeffrey Dahmer for example - the neighbors. What do these serial killers neighbors say (almost always) about the accused?

"He was so quiet. Nobody had any problems with him... he seemed a little odd, but he kept to himself."

This is what it was like growing up with my family. My mom stayed at home with us kids.. who were "so well behaved" (yeah, we were in fear for our very existence, but hey.. that's alright) and we kept our house nice. While our family certainly wasn't anything like serial killers, we were like the good neighbors that never bothered anyone. Everyone around us thought my dad was a hard working family man. And he was... except for one small thing.

Don't tell.

He thought violence was the way to 'solve' things. Again, I don't think my dad is a 'bad' person... after all, he is my dad and I do love him. I know to some people that may sound weird, especially after you read some of my other experiences later on... but how can a child NOT love their parents? They are a part of you, whether you want them to be or not.

Don't tell.

Now, there was a time I would actually fantasize about 'getting revenge' for all the times he humiliated me, beat me and made me feel like I was worth about as much as a freshly stepped into pile of dog shit. In fact, as I was entering my teen years and the beatings got worse.. my brother and sister were pre-teen and we'd all gather in my room with a tape recorder and pretend to have a newscast.

Don't tell.

We'd talk about my dad and his latest rampage in the __________ household and how three children overtook him and had their day. Sad? Yeah.. it was. I'm almost ashamed we'd talk about it. Sitting around my room while he was driving and talk about how when he gets old and unable to walk, how we'd push him down the stairs in his wheelchair. My face is bright red now... talking about it. Even mentioning it has me shaking and it's hard to type. I believe I was 14, my brother was 11 and my sister was around 8 1/2. We were kids and yet we were 'planning' our fathers demise.

Don't tell - please don't tell.. you'll only make it worse!

I think all of us just wanted the senseless crap to end. We all agreed (as adults) that there were times we were on the receiving end of spankings and there were times we agreed - We deserved them! I mean, we were kids and we got into stuff we shouldn't have.. we lied about it.. and we were just generally non-compliant at times and so yes, there were times we believed we deserved what we got.

But not welts... not cuts.... not black eyes, bruises, joints that hurt so badly we couldn't literally sit for days...

I was tired of being told, "I wish you'd never been born!" and the many, many other derogatory things he used to say. I was tired of my mom... just standing there... pretending it'd all go away. She hardly ever said anything.

Don't tell.

My sister and I joked a few years ago about how when we'd see dad coming at us, we'd know to make our bodies go limp. That was so he didn't break anything. How weird now to think, that her and I laughed about something so traumatizing. And it was... this wasn't just a whipping gone bad.. this was a way of life. Until we all moved out - we thought that was how things were supposed to be.

How messed up is that?


Mushy said...

I'm thinking that maybe you should have...overtook him and left him laying in his own shame, a pool of his bad blood all around.

Damn...can I use that some time?

Marmelade said...

wow, I was traumatised by my grandmother during all my childhood. she made me apologize for being born.
now i barely talk to her, and when i do, i really must because there's a family gathering ... i don't think she'll ever understand how much she harmed me.

Anonymous said...

I have been tokk a long time to handle that have great strength

Jillian said...

My mom used to joke about her first husband and the times he hit her. Maybe that's something you do when you've healed a little bit?? I dunno, we actually had some good laughs though.

Fran said...

I have been raped by my father when I was a baby, my mother accepted it, said nothing, my grand father protected me . But it was a big secret in my family, when I recovered memory, I had to stop any contact with my family, they used me, my mother didn't want to see me as a woman, that sucks, but they are responsible of most of failures and I can't forgive them.

The_Mrs said...

@mushy - Nah.. I think he's to the point now that he finally realizes that maybe he was over the top quite a few times? I don't know.. but one thing I do know.. I'd like to make peace with the man before our days here, end. I hope I can come to a place where I can do that... I can only hope.

@marmelade - I think a lot of times, people don't realize the impact they make on a person's life. Good OR bad. Especially bad. There were good times when I was a kid, but they were few and far between... one tends to remember the bad, because those emotional scars run deeper than any scars left from a beating with a razor strap... and those are the times that seem to cancel out any good memories. I would've been happy with just 'eh' memories. I'm sorry that your grandmother did that to you. :( Nobody deserves to be treated that way. Nobody.

@robert - I don't know how much strength I have, Robert. Sometimes I feel as though I do.. other times I feel like I'm just whining... it's hard to explain. My dad used to say all the time, "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and quit whining..." and I can't help but feel sometimes that I just need to buck up and move on. Problem is, it's consuming me. Also, maybe sometime we could talk via email or something about our experiences. It sounds like you and I share a lot on a lot of levels. Take care my friend.

@jillian - Maybe that's what it is? I don't know either. Maybe it's because we know he can no longer hurt us... or that despite it all, we survived? Can't say for sure.. but I do know that there are times that laughing is the only thing a person can do to keep from crying.

@fran - Oh my dear, tenderhearted friend... I am so sorry to hear what happened to you as a child. :( That sort of thing makes my heart ache for you and I wish I could give you a hug.... you are a kind spirit and I am amazed at your strength! You and I.... and I hope, several people can open up and try to heal ourselves in some small way. Please take care of yourself. My thoughts go to you.

Virtually Sweet said...

I know exactly your feeling about your mom just standing there, hardly saying a word. Or, in my case, one word. In a disgustingly whiny voice. "Bob." That's it. She'd say his name. Why bother? Why say anything at all? Because if she had been smart enough to just shut up, I may not have remembered her presence and I could have given her the benefit of the doubt for not knowing how hard he hit us.

My situation wasn't nearly as bad as yours. But it did involve belts, welts, and hand prints at a minimum.

we had a different family secret that didn't even involve us directly, but my dad's sister. He threatened us so that I was scared stiff just to tell my best's stupid though because the whole secret factor was only due to pride and embarrassment. Adults can be such idiots!

Ironically, I now have a better relationship with my dad than my mom. My dad has given genuine, heartfelt apologies to us, and has changed into a much more loving person over the years. My mom, however, thinks she's a virtual saint.

Robin Lee Sardini said...

I am glad you are talking! So very glad. You are healing so many hurting, too, Hon!

Tommybugman said...

My childhood was just the opposite with my parents. My mom was the heavy hand, and my father was "Mr. Keep The Peace." My father told me years later that the reason he went easy on me was to compensate for what I had to go through with her. (To this day, I still can not call her mom, That is reserved for the woman of my Dad's dreams of 17 years.)

I don't blame my Dad. He did the best he could. Shoot, he did more than a lot of fathers did. He had a career in the military and was going to night school for year to obtain his degree, AND always made time for me.

Her, on the other hand, was (probably still is) a dry drunk Jesus Freak. A happy face in public, but at home it was just the opposite.

My Dad probably will never realize more than 10% of what I went through. My wife understands less, although I have been able to tell her things that I never told my dad. No need to now, we are good.

To this day I still remember coming home from 1st grade, after getting in trouble for something the night before, going to the refrigerator to get some kool-aid.
I turned around and she told me "You father and I talked about giving you up for adoption last night, but we decided not to this time. But you better straighten up."

Heh, I just caught myself holding my breath while typing this.

I had no one to turn to. I was so damned scared. I thought she was telling the truth. Hell, I was 5!!

I realized down the road that my father would never have had a conversation like that. I just wished I knew it back then, because I still remember that it took me several days to feel like I wasn't going to have my heart give out.

Anonymous said...

I thought I lived through my childhood unphased, and maybe even tougher for it. It wasn't until mid life that I even realized that I had been abused. Its strange a person could keep something like that from themselves, but I didn't realize my upbringing was any different that everybody else either.

Surgeon in my dreams said...

I wish we could talk........